Make a retro USB keyboard out of a 1980's Acorn Electron computer!
The Electron was an 8-bit computer first produced in 1983, based on the legendary BBC Micro. Although it was a budget home machine, it came equipped with a decent keyboard. To many of us who grew up in the 80s the sound and feel of an authentic mechanical keyboard brings back many happy memories.
Incomplete, untested or non-working Electrons can still be found on Ebay and elsewhere, sometimes for as little as £10, and this project will give these noble machines a second lease of life. I use mine as a keyboard for a much later British computing success, the Raspberry Pi.
Step 1: Assemble the ingredients!
You will need:
- An Acorn Electron computer unit. If you find one that doesn't boot, or is missing its power supply, so much the better!
- A Freescale FRDM-KL25Z ARM development board. These excellent little boards are available for under £10 (e.g. from Farnell) and need no additional tools for programming.
- Two 2 x 8-way 0.1" pitch headers, and matching 2 x 8-way IDC sockets.
- Some 0.05" (1.27mm) pitch IDC ribbon cable. You'll need a 20cm lengths of 26-way cable (split into one 12-way and one 14-way). For instance, you could recycle an old IDE hard disk lead.
- A USB "A" to "Mini B" cable
- M3 nuts and bolts
The tools needed are:
- A soldering iron and solder
- A solder sucker or desoldering braid
- A scalpel or sharp knife
- A Philips screwdriver, pliers, wire stripper etc.
- A bench vice
- A drill
You will also need (brief) access to a PC running Windows.